Classic Movie Watchlist 2018

Classic Movie Of The Week: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

a chinese ghost story.jpg

Starring: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, Wu Ma, Wang Zuxian

Director: Siu-Tung Ching

When a hapless young tax collector wanders into town, no one will give him shelter and he’s forced to take refuge in a haunted temple. There he meets a misanthropic Taoist warrior and a beautiful girl, who harbours a deadly secret: she is a ghost being kept prisoner and forced to seduce and kill men who come to the temple. With the help of the warrior, the young man sets out to kill the monstrous tree spirit that holds her and free his true love.

Made in Hong Kong in the 80’s, it’s a film that sparkles and delights, and it has a little bit of everything. In some ways, it’s a fairy tale, set in an older time, with star crossed lovers and monsters that must be vanquished, with the help and guidance of an older mentor, but what lifts it is how much the film has stuffed into it’s bones. There’s plenty of innocent, slapstick or classic movie comedy scattered throughout. They’re like Dad jokes, and even though they are sometimes pretty cheesey, they’re also kind of charming. Add to this a Ray Harryhausen style stop motion skeletal ghouls and a creature with a monstrous tongue, and you have some classic 80’s effects.

But there’s more. The film also has characters engage in martial arts and sword fights, as well as a little magic. People fly through the air, throw swords and call down lightening. It’s pretty epic. It’s actually quite a lot for one film, and yet it never really loses it’s way. Each character is quite archetypal, so they feel familiar and relatable quite quickly.

There’s something about this film that’s so 80’s and so charming, from the elaborate sets and creature creation to the central sweet love story. It’s truly delightful, and tries to have something for everyone, from action and adventure to humour and romance, and there’s something about this intensity that’s so enthusiastic it’s hard not to get caught up. The version that I watched had really badly translated subtitles, which were pretty hilarious themselves, and just made me love this film more. It’s not perfect and is often kind of silly, but it’s fun to just sink into and enjoy.

See It If: you love fairytales, Chinese or Hong Kong cinema, martial arts or 80’s fantasy films. It’s really charming.

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7 thoughts on “Classic Movie Of The Week: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)”

  1. Well…as you know I love Asian cinema, and of course this one can be found in my collection as well. Wonderful film, while at times a little bit cheesy, it also gives it some genuine charm too 😊😊 Great to see you put this in the spotlight πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always had a real soft spot for this one. Channel 4 in the UK showed a whole season of Hong Kong supernatural/fantasy films many years ago, including ‘Mr Vampire’ and ‘Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain’ but this one was definitely my favourite. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have to seek it out and watch it again…you’ve made me go all nostalgic!!

    Liked by 1 person

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